By Dani Zorn '09
What do Greece, field hockey and Gordon College have in common? The answer is Ariadne Niavradaki. The '09 biblical and theological studies major, originally from South Africa and Greece, moved to the Boston area with her husband, Peter, in 2007 for his residency in pediatrics and internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital while Ari attended Gordon.
But let's back up. Niavradaki was born in South Africa, where she lived for 15 years until her parents, a Cypriot and a Cretan, moved Niavradaki and her four siblings to Crete. Niavradaki had run cross country and had started playing field hockey while living in South Africa. Moving to Greece, Niavradaki was worried there would be no field hockey.
"I loved playing a team sport instead of an individual one like cross country," said Niavradaki. "You are able to work together rather than just by yourself." Fortunately for Niavradaki, there was a club team. As she improved, Niavradaki decided to try out for the Greece National Team. After a rigorous two-week tryout, Niavradaki and a team of other talented female athletes competed against the national teams of Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, Holland and Ireland.
In 2003 the girls were in top shape and started training for the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Although they were ready to compete, the Field Hockey Federation in Greece did not have money to support their team at the Olympics, so the girls would have had to raise the funds themselves. Because they were training six hours a day, there was no time for work, and, therefore, no Olympics.
"All my dreams shattered," Niavradaki said. "I had a rebellious streak, and it was only awhile after that I realized the Lord knows what He is doing, and we have to wait and see what His plans are." Niavradaki grew from the challenges the Lord put in her life, and through that she now lives to see what His plans entail. "I'm grateful for the experience, even for the disappointment," she says.
Starting as a junior at Gordon College, Niavradaki joined the field hockey team under Coach Cory Ward. Having not played in three years while she was attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois, Niavradaki was a little apprehensive picking up her hockey stick again.
"The expectations were high for me because I had played on the Greece National Team," Niavradaki said. "It was funny because on the first day of practice I tripped and fell." Niavradaki loved playing on the team, although at the beginning it was frustrating. "I was so hard on myself," she said. "But then I realized there really were no expectations for me like there were on the national team—if we lost in Greece, it was detrimental to the country."
It was a breath of fresh air as Coach Ward focused on the spiritual lives of the girls, not just the physical aspect. Niavradaki realized the parallels the Gordon field hockey team had to the Body of Christ. "Teamwork and unity as we all worked together for one goal—which is Christ—is a connection our team had," Niavradaki said. Something that Niavradaki brought to the team—besides her hard work, skill, grounded character and faith—was her stories and advice on marriage.
But the Greece National Team wasn't finished with Niavradaki. In April 2009 Niavradaki's old coach, George Dramatinos, asked her come back to the team, the Agios Lazaros or Saint Lazaras, to help them compete in the club's national championship against the Athenians. Although the team is not as competitive and intense as they used to be when Niavradaki was there, they still gave the Athenians a run for their money but came up short 3-2 at the end of the game.
Niavradaki and her husband, Peter, are heading to Tanzania a week after graduation for a month-long missions trip working at an orphanage and a hospital where Peter will finish his residency. Hoping to do more missions work, the couple will continue to follow the Lord's calling on their lives and see where He takes them.